New challenges, new beginnings

Seeing as it is World Cup year, let’s pause briefly for a detour to the world of football.

It is the end of an era.

Fresh from the Portuguese exit from the World Cup, after a thrilling 3-3 draw with Spain, football icon Cristiano Ronaldo announced that he is not renewing his contract with Spanish champions Real Madrid for the next season, and will instead join the team they defeated in the Champions League, Juventus instead.

At the age of 33, Ronaldo still commanded a hefty price tag of 99 million. Is it worth it? This is what the media have been asking. But you have to think that he may not have reached his peak yet, or even if he has, he could possibly have one or two years more in him to justify the price tag. And 99 million is not the price they pay for Ronaldo’s services on the pitch. One of the most iconic footballers, drawing attention wherever he goes, thousands of social media followers, in a white and black shirt of Juventus? That has to draw a lot of attention, and be worth a lot. Will sales of shirts go up? Probably.

Juventus have probably decided that within the next two years they will need to make a push to winning the Champions League, and now is the time to do so by getting one of the most important footballers in the world. Ronaldo has probably done enough to make himself known with that amazing bicycle kick last year.

But why did Ronaldo decide to leave Real Madrid? The first reason one can think of is that he had spent enough time at Real Madrid and to improve probably needs a change. We all do. Having spent a long time in one job, means that you start to lost a bit of your edge, a bit of your drive, and get comfortable. The best among us recognise that to keep improving, you need to keep challenging yourself, and finding new environments to do so.

Another reason is perhaps that manager Zinedine Zidane has gone. And why did Zidane go? Was it because of the Real Madrid hierarchy and board meddling with the team? Maybe Ronaldo got fed up of them too, and their courting of Kylian Mbappe and dare we say it – Neymar.

It may be true that if your employer courts a professional with the same skill set as you, he is looking for a younger replacement. You might just as well go before you get pushed. Or perhaps, Ronaldo just need a fresh change – like the pianist Frederic Chopin, who decided to leave Paris after a period of time to visit Majorca. (You can read more about it in the blog of  Piano Teacher Finsbury Park.)

Whatever the case, it seems all parties are winners here. There might be more drama in next year’s Champions League football especially if both teams meet head to head.

Enjoy the summer, everyone!

Lessons from the World Cup

The World Cup has passed the group stages already and we have seen many good games already. Even if you don’t normally fancy football, it is hard not to get immersed with all that is going on, perhaps because it is sociable to keep up with these events that happened only once every four years; it gives you something to talk with your mates!

With the traditional powerhouses of football such as Germany and Spain not really doing that well, who do you think will win the World Cup this year?

The Germans have endured a torrid campaign. They did not play well in their opening games and gave themselves a difficult time in a must win game against South Korea. With only three games in each World Cup group stage, it is important to position yourself so that you are not under pressure in a situation, which can be used against you. The South Koreans knew that the Germans had to win the game, and would consequently go on the offensive. This meant they could sit back and wait for the German team to commit men forward, and then hit them on the counterattack. They could also play a slower passing game, induce the Germans to keep coming at them in order to win the ball and then pass it into open space and tire them out over the course of the game. And every free kick or throw was slow, so that time would run down. Unfortunately the Germans found themselves in these unfavourable positions, and ultimately lost the game on errors. But had they performed better in the first two games, you might have found that they would have been able to relax and coast in their final game, play to their strengths without pressure and probably would have won that game and advanced.

Why did not take talented winger Leroy Sane? Sane had a good season at Manchester City dazzling defences with his speed, but was a casualty of a high-profile squad. Like the pianist and composer Fanny Hansel, he lay in the shadow of more prominent names, but his inclusion in the side would have given defences a headache as he drifts in and out of possession well. He might have performed better than Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil, who you may agree had a less than successful season with Arsenal.

My money is on Belgium to win. In Thibaut Cortouis, Vincent Kompany, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku, they have an important spine of the team. They are also largely overlooked so it would be nice for a team like that to win!

Knowles stays for the moment!

Cambridge United winger Tom Knowles, currently on loan at St Ives Town, has had his loan spell extended for least another month.

Knowles has made a name for himself within St Ives since arriving from Cambridge. On his debut game for St Ives, he scored a goal and also teed up another, making a major impact in a game which ended 3-0 within minutes of only just coming on as a substitute.

The team manager Ricky Marheineke praised his work rate and energy among other things, and there were fears that he might be recalled to his parent club, but these fears have been allayed for the moment.

It is good news for St Ives to continue having the services of Knowles for that period – hopefully the team can keep him for even longer after that!